Whenever I’m standing on a subway platform, I play this game: I hover near a person I think is cute and try to slowly make my way over to him so we get in the same car. Like most of the girls in my class, I wanted attention from the boys.
When we do, I look his way every so often to see if he’s staring back, to see if we’ve got what my best friend and I call “the affinity,” a mutual acknowledgement that we one another. But while they chased after blondes and brunettes, I was ignored.
Somehow their politicization has begun to seem cartoonish, filled with performance and self-congratulation. But it wasn’t only on election night that translating experience felt so fraught.
There are, in my relationships with white men, so many moments like that.No matter how close I held the mirror up to their faces, sometimes their good and liberal wells of understanding and compassion were simply inaccessible.Lately, though, I just don’t feel like answering them.The other day, I was on the subway platform playing my usual game, and I caught the eye of a black guy.They’re no longer the object of my affection, a mirror for my self-worth, or an affirmation of my beauty. The night Trump was elected, I wrote about feeling lonely.
I wanted to be comforted — but I wanted it to be by someone who had an inkling of the anxiety I felt for my family, my loved ones, and for myself.
I lost count of the times my boyfriend in my late 20s would tell me to “just leave” parties or social events when I complained of being the only person of color in his all-white friend group.
Even more hurtful was the night he and I were standing outside a bar in Bushwick and someone we both knew started making racist comments.
Every white man I’ve dated has, sometimes consciously and sometimes not, asked me to explain to them some aspect of blackness.
“Can I say the N-word if I’m singing along to a song? ” (I don’t know dude, I ask myself the same question every goddamn day.) I know that I shouldn’t feel compelled to always speak for my race, but I can’t expect a white boyfriend to stop asking some of those questions if we’re to come to a mutual understanding.
While I tried to explain to this man why what he was saying was offensive, my boyfriend stood there in silence.